Archive for November, 2009

An Agrarian Thanksgiving Day Prayer

My minister, John Wright, at the UUFS shared this in this weeks Wednesday Announcements….

The Rev Max Coots writes:

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and remember fondly where their roots are.
Let us give thanks for generous friends…with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms.
For feisty friends as tart as apples.
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible.
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn; and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you.
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes; and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions.
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter.
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening time and young friends coming on as fast as radishes.
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings.
And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.
For all these, we give thanks. Amen

Blessed Be, and Happy Thanksgiving!



Dirt Cheap Emergency Food Stash

I believe in being prepared, and maybe I’m a little paranoid about the future. That one reason why when I quit my job in the summer of 2008 to have Julian, my second son, we also decided to raise chickens. I didn’t know what the economy was going to do, and we thought we should know how to raise our own food, just in case.  Also consider how well the government handled Katrina, and maybe my paranoia isn’t all that crazy.  Needless to say having an emergency stash of food and water to last a month without cooking is a good idea, but what at what cost?  I found this article online (sorry can’t remember where originaly)  and saved it to my Face Book notes: Dirt Cheap Emergency Food Storage Advice.  I had no idea you could eat oat meal raw, but it makes sense, it is pre-cooked and I would have never thought of using my hot water tank as a water source (at least not without seriously panicking for a while first.) I’ve only been working on this for a few weeks but thus far I have 50 gallons of water in my hot water tank,  plenty of vitamins,  30 liters of water in 3 L soda bottles stored around the house, 9 lbs of oat meal, 4 cans of beans.  I’m buying store brand soda in 3L bottles (because they hold up better than milk jugs) to  store tap water:  $1.20 each, sometimes on sale for $0.75 each.  I’m buying 9 lb boxes of Oatmeal at sams club for $6.50 ish. The canned beans are free, thanks to WIC.  I think I bough the vitamins at Sams Club too, but I can’t recall the price. The oatmeal from Sam’s Club comes in a box with two bags in it, several of which would store nicely removed from the box, in a food safe 5 gallon bucket in the garage. The toughest part is really the water, because it takes up so much space, and containers don’t always hold up to freezing and because I lack a basement (as do most homes on the Eastern Shore).  So I have my bottle store in that cabinet over the fridge that I never go into, and back in the funky corners of my kitchen cabinets. The key to food storage is to use the food and replace it slowly, so it doesn’t go stale or bad. One third of the water has to be dumped (or used in the garden)  every 4 months to keep it fresh.  I’m not going to have my full month’s supply over night, but it’s a start.  Eventually I will add cans of apple sause, but at the moment I want to focus on the water and the oatmeal.

Socks for the Organizationaly Challenged

I happen to be one of those frazzle brained, organizationaly challenged people who struggle to keep a home from filling up with stuff.  Honstly I don’t think I’m doing too bad, considering I don’t have a basement. Today’s organizational project was the basked of random socks in the bedroom. I sorted it out, into piles of  grown up socks, baby socks, Vincent’s socks, kid socks too big for Julian and too small for Vincent, and non socks.  I decided after storting them, they needed to be rewashed because I think the cat decided to pee in the basket.  So, I mixed in the dirty diapers and the adult socks to make a large load out of a small one. I used lots of  borax and a bit of oxyclean, which I use sparingly.  (That’s a word I use quite a bit!) With the kids socks, I like to color code them with fabric markers or colored permanent markers. If I buy a bag of socks all the same I put a small dot of color on each one so I can tell they are the same size. This makes it easier to sort out what sizes don’t fit, because I can just look for the dots.  I really can’t stand matching socks, so I try to get a lot of the same exact thing to make it easier. I really need to weed out older socks that don’t match my current system, which would help make less laundry. I could cut them into rags (if I don’t cut them open, they end up back in the sock basket)…any other ideas on reusing old socks?

Angel Food Ministries

If you are looking for frugal food, AFM has good deals.  I’ve been ordering with AFM since about April of  2009, and the quality of the food has improved.  My host site is St. John’s Church in Fruitland,MD  and they also provide free bread from local grocery stores.  For November, I ordered a Signature Box, which is always $30 and the Thanksgiving Box for $36.  Here are some of the food items that came with my regular box:

AFM Processed Foods

AFM PRocessed Foods

AFM Beef

AFM Beef










Frozen AFM Veggies

AFM Veggies

Also included in this month’s Signature Box is a dozen eggs, usually medium size (I usually swap them for another loaf of bread as I have my own eggs.) a box of ceral, a quart of shelf stable milk, a 2 lb. bag of onions, 16 oz of pork chops, breaded fish patties,  ground beef,  hash brown patties, iced lemon cake, and a bag of frozen cauliflower.

Yes, none of this is organic, but I still feel better shoping at a charity. The volunteers at my host site are so nice and well organized. You order and pay a month in advance, so when you pick up, you also order for the next month. They have volunteers with carts to roll your boxes of food right out to your car. Did I mention the free bread? Much of it is whole wheat, and they have donuts and other desserts, if that’s your thing.

I usualy get one Signature Box, and another “Special”. For December I ordered the “Unbreaded Chicken Special” which was 10 lbs of chicken for $20, with thighs, split chicken breasts, and some other cuts.  I like bone-in chicken because I can cut out the bone and make stock from the left over bits, and this time of the year is best for soup! They also have an alergy free box, convience meal box, and fresh veggie boxes. Every month is a little different, so you don’t get borred of eating the same foods.  Since we also get veggies from Provident Organic Farms, I only order one Signature Box, and the go for the Chicken specials, as they are usualy the cheapest.  Typically the only processed food I buy are from AFM, and it’s just enough “Reheat and Serve” food to keep me sane in the kitchen.


Organic vs. Frugal

This is really the big question. Organic (and what I call beyond organic)  food produced by small farmers is going to cost more, but it’s better for you, not just because it’s produced without toxic chemicals, but because when cows eat grass, they make better milk, and when chickens eat bugs, toads, and yes even mice they make better eggs.  Contrary to what the FDA says, and egg is not an egg is not an egg.What livestock animals eat makes a big difference.  And that’s why we are trying to produce as much of our own food as we can, because it’s the cheapest option. That said, we have had limmited success with organic gardening, but we are learning from our mistakes and will press on!

We have been purchasing a large portion of our non-organic food from Angel Food Ministries, because they have excellent prices and it’s a non profit organization, and it’s better than buying from Walmart. I do buy some things at Sam’s Club, like the 4 lb box of powdered milk that makes 5 gallons and costs about $12. That’s about $4 cheaper than at Walmart for the same box.   I’m also on WIC and there are no organic options for the WIC checks, but it’s free food. It’s hard to say no to free….

Bottom line, we have decided to make healthy food a priority. The only junk food I buy are some “Whale” crackers for Julian, my 16 month old,  popcorn that I pop myself on the stove, and Sugar Free Instant Pudding. If I get coupons I might get a dessert as a treat from a fast food place, but never a meal. Now I will make from scratch cookies and things, and boy I would LOVE to get hand cranked ice cream maker, but I use a lot of Sucralose and whole wheat.  We don’t have cable, but do use Netflix and Hulu. We buy quite a bit of our “things” used, or from FreeCycle, or Craig’s List.We have a rule in our house: “We don’t begin sentances with “I want”!  I might drive a 10 year old Saturn, but I don’t have any credit card debt.  That’s a great feeling!

We also have a new relationship with food. Cooking is hobby, not a chore. Eating together as a family is mandatory.

How to Cut an Onion Without Crying!

I found this trick a few weeks ago, and I’ve used this trick without crying ever since!  But instead of tossing out the chunk of onion that has the gasses in it that make you cry,  I toss it in a bag in the freezer with all my other veggie odds and ends and they get added to the bones and meat when I make stock.

BTW, making your own stock saves a lot of money! If you buy bone-in chicken breast, cut off the rib meat and freeze it for stock. Poof! You have made another meal out of that cut of meat. You can even freeze stock or if you are really talented presure can it. I haven’t tried that yet, but I would like to!


Provident Organic Farm Winter Share

I joined the Winter Share of POF, which delivers veggies every other week. This week we got turnips, radishes, beet greens, brocolli, and scallions.  There were also potatoes, but I declined them because I have a TON of potatoes at home. We grew our own potatoes this year. There were two heads of brocolli, we ate one last night in some home made Chinese Stir Fry that I made with left over cabbage and rice.   I think I’ll make chicken soup and add the beet greens to it. Not sure what I’m going to do with thoes raddishes…don’t they look like parsnips? But I asked, they are not…. I’m always open to cooking suggestions, so if you have a good recipe, let me know!

POF Winter Share

Turnips, Radishes, Beet Greens, and Brocolli